Summer has arrived in Chacala big time. It’s hot, humid, buggy, muggy, stormy, and did I mention hot? The entire Pacific coast of Mexico is sweltering right now. This is the time of year when most gringos flee northward to milder climates.
We, too, are fleeing for part of the summer. We’ll be spending six weeks in PA, WA and CO visiting friends and family in August and part of September. According to some of my Chacala friends, skipping six weeks of summer disqualifies us for an “I survived” T-shirt or any sort of badge of honor. But I think we are experiencing enough of “real” summer (which roughly lasts from June – October) to reflect on what it’s like and at least earn a “participant” ribbon. 🙂
Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, summertime in Chacala is actually a beautiful, bountiful and exhilarating time of year. The unofficial start of summer is marked by the first big rain storm of the season, which hit Chacala on June 15. It was an epic storm by our standards: pounding rain for 12 hours straight, blasting thunder and lightning, trees thrashing in the wind and the power went out (see video below). It was the first big rain to hit Chacala in months. Amazingly, our four-year-old daughter Maya slept through the whole thing. The next day it was sunny again, and the trees, plants and buildings had been transformed. Everything was a brighter kaleidoscope of color. The rain had scrubbed everything clean. We’ve had several big storms since then, and after each one, the landscape gets more colorful and lush.
With the lushness comes a bounty of fruit. The variety of tropical fruits available this time of year is incredible: mango, passion fruit, papaya, lychee, yaka (jackfruit), pineapple, guava and more. By far, the most bountiful summer crop is mango. Nayarit must be the capital of mangoes because they are growing everywhere. Every day, we see giant trucks filled with mangoes heading down the road. The fruit stands are chock full of mangoes in every variety. Our favorite is the ataulfo, which – and I’m not exaggerating – tastes like heaven, sunshine and rainbows combined. With all the fruit growing, falling and rotting on the ground, there is a constant intoxicating, sugary, fermented aroma in the air.
There is so much fruit growing, in fact, that you literally smash it under your feet and car tires as you walk and drive around. You have to be careful walking under mango trees, as the big ripe fruits will come pummeling down without warning. Some nights, we can’t sleep because of fruit. There is a tree outside our bedroom window growing oblong golf-ball sized yellow fruits that the locals call papallita – or baby papaya. To me, they smell and taste a little bit like candied sweet potatoes you sometimes eat at Thanksgiving. When the wind blows, the fruits shake loose from the tree and pound into the side of our house, jarring us awake.
There are, of course, many other less pleasant things emerging in the summer that keep us up at night and on our toes during the day. Nearly every morning since it’s started raining, I wake up and find a new species of insect inside our house: millipedes, potato bugs, giant flying cockroaches (three so far), and a random assortment of beetles, moths and other bug species I have no idea what they are. Needless to say, while the insects can be quite fascinating, I prefer to encounter them outside. Maya has taken a liking to potato bugs, and the first one she saw she put in a jar to keep as a pet.
Then there are all the new bugs outside the house too. One day we woke up and there were tons of dead, almond-sized winged red ants everywhere – on the streets and along the beach. Apparently, they are harmless and good eating according to our friend Miguel, who is also a fan of roasted grasshoppers. The other day, there was a massive black beetle outside our house. Last month, we encountered a whip scorpion (harmless to people) at our friend’s house. The mosquitos are starting to gang up too, so we diligently apply bug spray every morning and evening these days.
Another summertime visitor are the crabs. When the rains come, crabs that have been living clandestinely in the jungle for months come marching to town in clumsy, clattering droves, down to the beach to lay their eggs. Along the way, they stumble into homes, backyards, cars, shoes, and whatever hidey-hole they can find. We thought we’d be safe from these invaders living in a second-floor apartment, but little did we know that these crabs climb walls (see video below). I have busted two in the house so far. They are actually harmless and quite cute (in my opinion) – but you don’t want one dying in your house – apparently the stink is unbearable. We often see them waddling down the dirt roads when we go for our morning run. They always scatter into the bushes when we get near, waving their little pinchers menacingly.
Along with the crabs, we are also seeing many more snakes (usually dead on the road) and iguanas this time of year. Butterflies are everywhere! And in the mornings, the frogs in our local lagoon are so loud you have to shout to be heard if you are standing beside it. You can still hear the frogs from the top of the mountain that overlooks town, at least 2 miles away. It is in this same lagoon where last month we saw a giant crocodile about six feet long! Apparently, this massive beast was seen swimming along the edge of the beach a few days before, looking for a spot devoid of tourists so it could exit the water and make its way back to the lagoon. Apparently, he made it. Yikes! And I thought all we had to fear in the ocean this time of year were the jellyfish.
Here’s a video of some of the sights and sounds of summer, including the crabs, croc and vociferous frogs!
So, you see, it truly IS quite an exhilarating time of year. It seems every day there is a new eruption of life – the good, the bad and the ugly. And it is only August. Who knows what will emerge in the coming months? We’ll be sure to let you know, as soon as we are actually back in Chacala. 🙂